Hey! I finally played something and I really want to share it with you. This year I've been struggling with gaming for various reasons and I've barely finished a handful of games. I learned about King Arthur: Knight's Tale by complete accident in a podcast and it immediately caught my attention. I wouldn't say this post is a review, it's just a recounting of things that I liked and disliked with no clear conclusion as to whether you should play it, plus a little bit of random rambling. Quite an unusual format for me but you gotta try something new if you want to find something good.
It is a party-based tactical RPG and while the second thing is slightly discouraging to me, the first one certainly isn't. I have been a fan of party-based CRPGs ever since I played Neverwinter Nights many-many years ago and fell in love with this genre. Unfortunately, these games are not as popular, and they need a ton of resources to make which leads to the market being somewhat starved. Well, I am certainly starved because the last good thing I played in the genre was Pillars of Eternity and it's been pretty much just tumbleweeds rolling across an empty road since then.
I feel like at some point you come in contact with the legends of Arthur and chances are, you'll become pretty invested in them for a certain period of time. When I just started studying English, I had a chance to visit Winchester, a city in Hampshire, England, and there I saw one of the main tourist attractions: King Arthur's Round Table mounted on the wall in Winchester Castle with the names of the legendary knights written around the edge. Of course, I had some knowledge about Arthur and his knights before but that was the first spark that ignited my interest further. At the time I also watched a whole lot of British TV shows to improve my knowledge of the language, and one of those was Merlin... So yeah. I definitely had a King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table phase at some point in my life. Let me know in the comments if you also experienced something like that :D
Contrary to what you might think from the title of the game, you don't play as Arthur, you play as Morded, the dread knight and Arthur's nemesis. Arthur and Mordred killed each other in a fight, and Arthur was taken to Avalon to be brought back by Lady of the Lake, as the legends foretold. However, something went wrong and the resurrected Arthur became the menace that plagued Avalon, so the Lady had little choice but to bring back you, Mordred the Dread Knight, to fight whatever Arthur has become and kill him once again.
I am not an expert on the many legends of King Arthur but I was pleasantly surprised to see many characters that I recognize, such as the Grail Knight Percival, lady Morgana, lady Gwynevere and others. There were also characters that I've never heard about before, like lady Dindrain, Percivale's sister and another Grail knight. A substantial portion of the game is spent in the lands of the Seelie and Unseelie, in Summer and Winter Courts. Of course, there is also Lady of the Lake, quite a controversial character, if you ask me, but her interactions with Mordred are pure gold.
Knight's Tale is broken up into many missions that you can choose on your overworld map. The games that choose this approach instead of a continuous adventure can feel very disjointed and awkward but here, luckily, this is not the case. The next main mission picks up immediately after your previous one and there is absolutely no chance you'll lose the thread of the story. All side quests are easily trackable, there aren't many of them flooding your map at the same time. I think that smart mission management is actually one of the Knight's Tale's strongest suits. Even though you travel as a party of four, more often than not you will be joined by someone else at the start of the mission or at some point during the mission, and I find that particularly sweet. Sometimes characters of the opposing factions would join you for a quest and you'll get to play as an enemy unit, and you'll have all of their abilities that you might not have in your party, and this twist helps keep the game fresh.
What I loved the most in Knight's Tale was the Morality Chart where your decisions move you along the axes of Christian and Old Faith and along the axes of Rightful and Tyrant. You can also be Neutral. The Morality Chart does not only determine what perks you get when you reach a certain threshold but most importantly, what missions will be available to you and what characters you'll be able to recruit. Sure, you recruit a whole lot of characters throughout the game regardless of the Morality Chart but some of them need you to have a certain disposition. For example, you need to be Old Faith 13 to be able to go on a mission that gives you an opportunity to recruit Lady Morgana Le Fay so from the very start of the game I was appeasing the Old Gods, helping druids, choosing Old Faith sanctuaries over Christian churches, losing loyalty of my Christian knights but in the end I got Lady Morgana. And learned that she can't be in my party because she is super pagan and lady Dindrain in super Christian and they don't like each other. Oh well.
Naturally, this means that you won't be able to recruit all characters in the course of a single playthrough and you also won't be able to play through all the morality-related missions the game has to offer because you'll inevitably skip half of them, or even all of them of you choose to remain neutral. However, what I found to be the coolest part of this whole ordeal with the morality, is that when you reach a certain point where you have amassed enough morality points in different categories so you can't really go back now - for example, if you have 15 points in Rightful, you can't suddenly become a Tyrant because there isn't enough of the game left - you'll receive a bunch of new questlines that have to do with the characters you couldn't recruit because of your polar moralities. For example, I was Rightful and Old Faith and I had a couple of questlines that pinned me against Tyrant characters that I would otherwise be able to recruit and add to my party if I was a Tyrant. But instead they challenged me, and there were several missions of me chasing them down throughout Avalon with a whole story attached to it, and it was awesome. I just assumed I'd never meet them because they are all the way on the opposite end of the chart but I was pleasantly surprised that I still got to interact with them, even though we were enemies.
Knight's Tale has a number of curious design decisions and one of them is splitting character's health into two parts: HP and Vitality. HP works like regular HP: your characters receive damage and their HP bar is depleted. There is a number of ways to restore HP: you can drink a potion, choose to restore health while resting, and it is also restored after every mission. However, Vitality is another deal entirely. When your character has lost all HP they had, the next time they receive damage, the vitality bar is depleted. You can't restore vitality with a potion or while resting, the only way to do so is to go back to Camelot, put your character into Hospice and wait for a mission or two until they recover. They can also get Injured when hit into their vitality bar, and to heal them from that you'll need to transfer them to the Cathedral in Camelot and again, wait a mission or two while they get patched up. If the vitality drops to 0 during a mission, the character dies, and in Knight's Tale character deaths are permanent. Unless you reload your save file, that is. I'd say it motivates you to keep a close eye on the character's status because number one - someone might die if they receive too much damage in one turn and both their bars are gone and you can do nothing about it, and two, if you have a challenging mission ahead you don't want to accidentally incapacitate your core party members and hastily put together another party.
Assembling your party in Knight's Tale has a bit more nuance than just slapping together a tank, a support character and a couple of damage dealers. First of all, a number of things can work out just fine: for the majority of the game I didn't have a support character but I had two Champions who had nearly identical skillsets and they just bruteforced everybody. When one of them got punched unexpectedly hard and was stuck in the Hospice, I had to change things up and replaced him with another character who, as it turned out, had an amazing synergy with Mordred and turned him into a death machine while not necessarily dealing a lot of damage herself. Usually I am one of those people who would form their party early on and stick to it till the end but Knight's Tale sometimes forces you to change things up, and as annoying as it might be, it's actually a good thing. I think that my party closer to the end of the game was way more exciting in terms on gameplay and way more effective than the one I had before, but I never would have assembled it if at different times I hadn't been forced to replace my core party members with someone else. Even characters of the same class might have different playstyles. I never really liked the Vanguard class heroes until the game shoved Queen Boudicia into my party and she can travel wild distances in one turn which makes her incredibly flexible and effective since the very start of the encounter.
Another thing that you might not even realize until you run into it is the unique character traits. For example, Lady Morgana Le Fay has a "Pagan" trait and she loses 1 loyalty after every mission where she was with a christian character. I literally had to fire Lady Dindraine over that. There is a character who won't go to any mission if he is missing even one point of Vitality, he has to have it full. I found it a curious addition to my usual concerns over the party assembling process and it was a lot of fun actually trying to find a pack of characters that work well together and don't hate each other. And don't whine over one lost Vitality point.
Moving on to the things I didn't really enjoy. One of them was pacing. But not of the whole game - the game overall is paced pretty well - but of some missions that are more battle-heavy than others. Unfortunately, in Knight's Tale "more battle-heavy" means encountering large groups of enemies every couple of minutes, and it is exhausting. It was also the main reason why I switched the difficulty from hard - that I enjoyed very much - to normal. During some missions you just run into a crowd of twenty enemies and after you're finished with them, you turn the closest corner - and there are 25 more. Sometimes there are three football teams of undead enemies and more of them get summoned every turn by totems or banshee before you even get the chance to destroy them and stop this circus. They are not really dangerous, most of them go down in a couple of hits but it just wore me down so fast. It was as if I dropped a bowl full of tiny beads and they got scattered on the floor and I have to meticulously and annoyingly pick them up one by one. I wish there were more ways to bring action into a mission than just throwing armies of enemies at the player. Again, the good thing is that the majority of the missions isn't like that but there were still enough cases for me to drop the difficulty level just to go through those missions faster and not end up as tired.
I play videogames mostly for stories and I play RPGs for the companionship of the characters I can recruit into my party. This is probably the biggest selling point for me: the fact that I can meet different characters, get to know them better, explore their storylines, build friendship that would result in me learning even more about them and helping them on their personal quests. Unfortunately, all of this is utterly missing in Knight's Tale, and this is probably the biggest downside of the game for me.
There aren't really any meaningful interactions between you as Mordred and other characters in your party. You don't get to know them better, you just receive their quests if they have any and if you have them in your Round Table, and it doesn't matter if you complete these quests or not because your relationships are just stagnant throughout the game. Every character has a Loyalty meter but it is completely unrelated to your personal relationships with them. If at some point in time you choose a Rightful decision, your Rightful knights with get plus Loyalty, and if you choose to make a Tyrant decision, your Tyrant characters would receive Loyalty points. Loyalty only influences their bonus damage and whether or not they get an additional action point and nothing else. There is no meaningful relationship system and it's a shame really because - if you know anything about King Arthur's legends - personal relationships between the characters there are pretty convoluted and I think exploring these relationships even a tiny bit would make players like me much more invested in the game. Most of these knights served King Arthur but now they have to serve the Dread Knight whom they despise, and assist him in killing their king once again; there is plenty of drama in that and yet is hardly gets explored. I could see some attempts in Gwynevere's storyline: she is King Arthur's wife, and she was also killed my Mordred which doesn't really make them friends. When she joins the Round Table, her character trait is Disloyal, minus 3 Loyalty from the start, which I thought was hilarious - and true to the character - but she was probably one of the easiest characters to max out in terms of loyalty, so the trait didn't really matter. There is also a mission that requires Gwynevere to be present in the party and Mordred himself absent, because the knight in question wouldn't agree to meet the party any other way. These little things made me happy and I would love to have more of that.
There are so many characters in Knight's Tale, and while I think that it's great that you have a lot of freedom in choosing how to assemble your Round Table and your party, I'd rather have much fewer characters but some kind of companionship: maybe more personal quests, conversations between characters, character development. Knight's Tale is fully voiced, the voice actors are great, Mordred is a very charismatic character so I honestly think that the only missing piece of this picture is the lack of relationships between the knights. It probably wouldn't bother me if the game was shorter but it's quite long, 40-60 hours and spending so much time in a company of people that don't change at all weighed me down significantly.
I think I've exhausted my long list of points I wanted to talk about and I hope you found it somewhat entertaining. I feel like this post is a part of my gaming diary this year so in December I can go back and be like - oh yeah, I played Knight's Tale, I remember that! Let me know in the comments below if you played Knight's Tale, what you liked and disliked the most, I'm very curious. I hope to play more games in the following months and share some of the highlights with you.
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Thank you for your time.